By far one of the most interesting and concerning points about today's launch of the AMD Ryzen processor is gaming results. Many other reviewers have seen similar results to what I published in my article this morning: gaming at 1080p, even at "ultra" image quality settings, in many top games shows a deficit in performance compared to Intel Kaby Lake and Broadwell-E processors.
I shared my testing result with AMD over a week ago, trying to get answers and hoping to find some instant fix (a BIOS setting, a bug in my firmware). As it turns out, that wasn't the case. To be clear, our testing was done on the ASUS Crosshair VI Hero motherboard with the 5704 BIOS and any reports you see claiming that the deficits only existed on ASUS products are incorrect.
AMD responded to the issues late last night with the following statement from John Taylor, CVP of Marketing:
“As we presented at Ryzen Tech Day, we are supporting 300+ developer kits with game development studios to optimize current and future game releases for the all-new Ryzen CPU. We are on track for 1000+ developer systems in 2017. For example, Bethesda at GDC yesterday announced its strategic relationship with AMD to optimize for Ryzen CPUs, primarily through Vulkan low-level API optimizations, for a new generation of games, DLC and VR experiences.
Oxide Games also provided a public statement today on the significant performance uplift observed when optimizing for the 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 CPU design – optimizations not yet reflected in Ashes of the Singularity benchmarking. Creative Assembly, developers of the Total War series, made a similar statement today related to upcoming Ryzen optimizations.
CPU benchmarking deficits to the competition in certain games at 1080p resolution can be attributed to the development and optimization of the game uniquely to Intel platforms – until now. Even without optimizations in place, Ryzen delivers high, smooth frame rates on all “CPU-bound” games, as well as overall smooth frame rates and great experiences in GPU-bound gaming and VR. With developers taking advantage of Ryzen architecture and the extra cores and threads, we expect benchmarks to only get better, and enable Ryzen excel at next generation gaming experiences as well.
Game performance will be optimized for Ryzen and continue to improve from at-launch frame rate scores.” John Taylor, AMD
The statement begins with Taylor reiterating the momentum of AMD to support developers both from a GPU and a CPU technology angle. Getting hardware in the hands of programmers is the first and most important step to find and fixing any problem areas that Ryzen might have, so this is a great move to see taking place. Both Oxide Games and Creative Assembly, developers of Ashes of the Singularity and Total War respectively, have publicly stated their intent to demonstrate improved threading and performance on Ryzen platforms very soon.
Taylor then recognizes the performance concerns at 1080p with attribution to those deficits going to years of optimizations for Intel processors. It's difficult, if not impossible, to know for sure how much weight this argument has, but it would make some logical sense. Intel CPUs have been the automatic, defacto standard for gaming PCs for many years, and any kind of performance optimizations and development would have been made on those same Intel processors. So it seems plausible that simply by seeding Ryzen to developers and having them look at performance as development goes forward would result in a positive change for AMD's situation.
For buyers today that are gaming at 1080p, the situation is likely to remain as we have presented it going forward. Until games get patched or new games are released from developers that have had access and hands-on time with Ryzen, performance is unlikely to change from some single setting/feature that AMD or its motherboard partners can enable.
The question I would love answered is why is this even happening? What architectural difference between Core and Zen is attributing to this delta? Is it fundamental to the pipeline built or to the caching structure or to how SMT is enabled? Does Windows 10 and its handling of kernel processes have something to do with it? There is a lot to try to figure out as testing moves forward.
If you want to see the statements from both Oxide and Creative Assembly, they are provided below.
“Oxide games is incredibly excited with what we are seeing from the Ryzen CPU. Using our Nitrous game engine, we are working to scale our existing and future game title performance to take full advantage of Ryzen and its 8-core, 16-thread architecture, and the results thus far are impressive. These optimizations are not yet available for Ryzen benchmarking. However, expect updates soon to enhance the performance of games like Ashes of the Singularity on Ryzen CPUs, as well as our future game releases.” – Brad Wardell, CEO Stardock and Oxide
"Creative Assembly is committed to reviewing and optimizing its games on the all-new Ryzen CPU. While current third-party testing doesn’t reflect this yet, our joint optimization program with AMD means that we are looking at options to deliver performance optimization updates in the future to provide better performance on Ryzen CPUs moving forward. " – Creative Assembly, Developers of the Multi-award Winning Total War Series